The iPhone lens does not have a very wide angle of view. There are times I can’t step back to frame the shot I want. There are other times I want to shoot close, but the iPhone does not have a macro capability. What to do? There’s a wide variety of aftermarket lenses available for the iPhone 4/4S/5, however, so far, the best design I’ve come across is the olloclip ($70, available at a nearby Apple store or direct from olloclip or from Amazon in versions for the iPhone 4/4S and for the iPhone 5) which consists of three lenses: fisheye, wide angle, and macro. The olloclip includes lens caps for the wide and fisheye lenses, and a cute case made of microfiber lens cleaning material. The product packaging is a little excessive (they could learn a thing or two from Studio Neat who sells the Glif) but I guess it needs to be striking in order to stand out among all of the iPhone accessories at the Apple Store, though perhaps the mail-order packaging could be more minimal. Be careful when purchasing from non-mainstream retailers, a lot of clones have sprung up like weeds and their optical quality varies. Below is the olloclip kit (case not shown) along with three configurations (left to right) on an iPhone 4S: wide angle, fish eye, and macro.
The olloclip wide angle lens approximately doubles the standard iPhone lens field of view and the macro lens multiplies the magnification of the iPhone lens by a factor of about ten. The overall fit and finish of the olloclip is very good. It’s obvious they have gone through great lengths to assure quality manufacturing and probably accounts for the additional cost compared to other adapters.The optical quality is reasonably good, chromatic aberration is not excessive, however, with the fisheye, you’ll see quite a bit of lens flare from light sources in or close to the edge of the frame that will exhibit blooming, much like when you stick a Soft F/X or similar diffusion filter on your D-SLR or video camera lens. Shooting macro is a tad awkward because you have to unscrew the wide angle lens elemnent from the macro lens element before you shoot. The macro lens opens up a whole new landscape that is now within reach of the iPhone lens. Below is a frame grab from video shot with FiLMiC Pro using the macro lens and the iPhone solidly positioned on a tripod with a Glif:
I really like the olloclip. This lens kit is small enough to carry with you so you’ll get a lot of use out of it. As someone who’s been a D-SLR photographer with a collection of lenses since I was a teenager and later started shooting with 16mm film and professional video cameras, I have become accustom to having lens choices. But the Canon D-SLR and Panasonic prosumer camera I use for my documentary work are too large to take everywhere, especially both at the same time. Given the iPhone is always close at hand, it’s nice to be able to shoot wide or close with the iPhone when the situation presents itself. If you embrace the inherent characteristics of the olloclip, rather than expect it to provide D-SLR optics on a beer budget with a shot glass form-factor, you’ll be happy with how the olloclip expands the visual possibilities of the iPhone for both photography with the Camera+ app and videography with the FiMiC Pro app.
There are are four things to be aware of when using the olloclip. First, it can easily start to slide off the phone, so be careful that it’s kept in position and check it while shooting. Second, the wide-angle lens, which you don’t want to over-tighten, can come loose from the the macro lens base, so I check this with a gentle turn of the wide angle whenever I take the olloclip out of the bag. Since you need to remove the wide angle lens to shoot Macro, it’s also easy to drop or lose it if you are not carefull. Third, if you are a fan of flash photography, you will be disappointed that the olloclip covers the flash. Since I don’t care for the flash on the iPhone, this is not an issue for me. Fourth: it covers the on/off switch, so you have to remove the olloclip to power off your phone or perform a screen grab. A minor inconvenience, but given where the lens is positioned on the phone, what choice did the designers have? They could have designed a special case you put around the phone to hold the lens and make the switch accessible, but this option does not appeal to me, I like the fact it works with the bare phone, which is how I prefer to use it.
Below are three frame grabs from video shot with FiLMiC Pro to give you an idea of the relative angle of view among the lenses. The first was shot using the standard iPhone lems, the second was shot using the wide angle, and the third was shot using the fisheye. Both the wide angle and fisheye lenses exhibit some blurring around the edges, but is not as extreme when shooting video as compared to stills.
I recently shot the following images at the Engaged Practice closing reception at MassArt using the Apple camera app. The first was shot with the wide angle lens and the second with the fisheye. Note that when shooting stills you get more of the fisheye effect since the image is not being cropped to the 16:9 aspect ratio. These are both full frame images in their original aspect ratio. While some vignetting is evident with the wide angle and even more with the fisheye, the lighting in this situation exaggerates it and in general it’s tolerable. I was literally up against the wall shooting both of these photos, they could not have been composed the way I wanted with the standard iPhone lens. The olloclip has become an essential element in my bag of iPhone accessories expanding the field of view of the iPhone lens whenever I need a wider, or closer, perspective on the world.